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On Reading Out and Living Abundantly

One of the books that’s stuck with me since I read it in in 2011 is Gretchen Rubin’s The Happiness Project. It’s one of those pseudo self-help books, focusing on one woman’s journey to feel happier. Ideas she posited in the book seem to come back to me at random times – recently while doing a Whole 30 – and often seem to offer some insight into my own behavior.

Early in the book, Rubin shares her 12 Commandments, the principles that helped guide her through her happiness project and her life. The one I’m thinking about this week, specifically in relation to my reading life, is her commandment to “Spend Out” – to stop hoarding, trust in abundance, and put things out into the world instead of saving them for a rainy day or a special occasion.

Going through my bookshelves as part of a massive book purge reminded me of how many wonderful books I’ve invested in… and made me realize I’ve somehow become unwilling to pick up the books I’m most excited about reading because I spend too much time thinking, instead, about when the perfect time to read the book will be.

I think a lot about books that would be great at the lake or at the gym, books that would be excellent during the Readathon or while on a long plane ride. I save books that I know will be great for times when I think will need to read a great book… ignoring the fact that there will always be more great books to read.

This doesn’t mean I end up reading bad books or disappointing books. So far, 2015 has been one of my most satisfying reading years since I started blogging. But it does mean that I’ve been letting my reading fall towards the books of the moment and letting other books I know will wonderful languish unread.

This has been the fate of so many books. Culling my bookshelves reminded me that I’ve been holding on to Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell, Embassytown by China Miéville, Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood, My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante, This Is the Story of a Happy Marriage by Ann Patchett and so many others, just waiting for a “perfect moment.” And when those inevitable moments I’ve been saving a book for do arrive, I often choose something else, still afraid of spending out this abundance I’ve invested in.

I’m still trying to think about what goals or plans I want to put in motion for my birthday next month. Turning 29 seems like one of those big ones, like the last peak of a climb on the way to turning 30. But I do know I want to make the year one of spending out, of living abundantly and making sure to love and use and appreciate and enjoy all of the objects around me. For purposes of this blog, I want to “Read Out,” to finish books I know I’ll love to make more space for the great books I know are still to come.

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Time and Place | About 9 a.m. on my couch.

Reading | I had a very slow reading week. I’m in this mode where I want to READ ALL THE THINGS which inevitably causes me to not read anything at all. I’ve been slowing making my way through three books this week, Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson, The Lost Landscape by Joyce Carol Oates (September from Ecco Books), and My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante. I’m hoping to finish at least one of those today.

Listing | One of the ways I tried to focus is to just make a list of everything that I want to be reading right now. Having it written down seems to settle my brain. Here’s the list: Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates (egalley), Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff (egalley), Blackout by Sarah Hepola (bought), Written in the Stars by Aisha Saeed (library), Sally Ride: America’s First Woman in Space by Lynn Sherr (library), I Am Malala by Malala Yousarzai (bought), and Saint Mazie by Jamie Attenberg (bought).

Watching | We’re going to see Spy, Melissa McCarthy’s new movie, this afternoon. Nothing like a cool, dark movie theater in the middle of a hot, humid weekend.

Listening | My current audio book is An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir, a YA fantasy right in my audio book wheelhouse. The book has a male and a female narrator for the alternating perspective chapters, which I really like.

Blogging | This week I wrote about my current British fiction reading binge and shared 11 true stories of lady adventurers.

Hating | I think my grocery store has stopped carrying my new favorite yogurt, Chobani Almond Coco Loco (coconut yogurt with salted almonds and dark chocolate). This is very distressing!

Loving | I’ve got a three day work week! Our official company holiday is Friday, and I took Thursday off to see some friends who are vacationing in Minneapolis. After that, we’ll be heading to the cabin for another weekend at the lake. I’m excited.

Planning | I’ve been thinking a lot about how I want to save memories and mementos from the trip my sister and I are taking to Europe this fall (we finally finished booking our accommodations, so the trip is feeling VERY real). This post on ways to preserve memories without scrapbooking caught my attention, as did this one on making a photo book. I’d love to get some ideas from others who are frequent travelers or talented memory keepers, as I am neither of those things.

Plotting | Hannah has started sleeping on my pillow after I get up in the morning which is cute but also gross because, ugh, so much cat hair. A friend suggested putting a cat bed there for her to sleep on, which seems like a logical solution.

Anticipating | I skipped taking a walk yesterday, so I need to get my butt moving this morning. I found a new path to take last weekend, out to this gazebo with a lovely view, so I may head that direction after breakfast.

Happy Sunday, everyone! What are you reading today?

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This post originally appeared on Book Riot.

Gertrude Bell, the Female Lawrence of Arabia (Wikimedia Commons)

Gertrude Bell, the Female Lawrence of Arabia (Wikimedia Commons)

I love a good adventure story. I would never actually get on a boat going deep into the Amazon or set out to trek across the desert, but I love true stories about people braver than me risking it all in the quest for knowledge and discovery.

It can be a bit of a challenge, however, to find stories about lady adventurers. There have been fewer of them and, in many cases, their stories weren’t well documented at the time. But when a Book Riot reader asked for suggestions, I was excited to do some digging to find some possibilities to share.

For the purposes of this post, I’ve defined “adventurer” pretty broadly to include stories about women who broke barriers, broke records, or simply went above and beyond what was considered possible or even the norm for women at their time. You’re also going to see quite a few books on this list by adventuring lady journalists because they hold a special place in my heart. With all that for an introduction, let’s get to the list!

Gertrude Bell: Queen of the Desert, Shaper of Nations by Georgina Howell – Born in 1868, Gertrude Bell (pictured above) has been called, by some, the female Lawrence of Arabia. She was a strong presence in the British Empire, studying at Oxford before starting her career as an “archaeologist, spy, Arabist, linguist, author, poet, photographer, and legendary mountaineer.” She sounds pretty awesome.

It’s What I Do by Lynsey Addario – This is one of my favorite books of the year so far. Addario is a conflict photographer who was one of the first people in Afghanistan after the United States invaded in 2001. She’s been on the front lines across the world, all in pursuit of the truth.

dust tracks on a road by zora neale hurstonDust Tracks on a Road by Zora Neale Hurston – Although most of us know Hurston as a writer, she was also a folklorist and anthropologist. This 1942 autobiography is Hurston’s life in her own words.

The Discovery of Jeanne Baret by Glynis Ridley – Baret accidentally became the first woman to circumnavigate the globe in the 1700s after disguising herself as a man and serving as the assistant for her lover, botanist Philibert de Commerson. The ruse was discovered sometime in the South Pacific, but she continued with her voyage successfully.

Full Tilt: Ireland to India with a Bicycle by Dervla Murphy – This book, from 1965, is the story of Murphy’s bicycle trek from Dunkirk, across Europe, through the Middle East and the Himalayas to Pakistan and India. She traveled alone and learned about people along the way.

ada blackjack by jennifer nivenAda Blackjack: A True Story of Survival in the Arctic by Jennifer Niven – In 1921, 23-year-old Ada Blackjack joined an Arctic expedition with four Canadian men as a seamstress, hoping to earn money and find a husband. She was the only person to survive the trip.

Double Victory by Cheryl Mullenbach – African American women took on a range of adventurous jobs during World War II. This book features many of them including, “Hazel Dixon Payne, the only woman to serve on the remote Alaska-Canadian Highway; Deverne Calloway, a Red Cross worker who led a protest at an army base in India; and Betty Murphy Phillips, the only black female overseas war correspondent.”

West With the Night by Beryl Markham – Markham was born in England in 1902, but grew up with her father in Kenya. She spent her life in East Africa as an adventurer, racehorse trainer and pilot. If you’d prefer a biography over a memoir, grab Straight On Till Morning by Mary S. Lovell.

eighy days by matthew goodmanEighty Days by Matthew Goodman – In 1889, journalists Nellie Bly and Elizabeth Bisland set out from New York City, in opposite directions, to see if they could beat the fictional journey of Phileas Fogg around the world. This book is a recounting of their rivalry, the media sensation their journey caused, and their lives after they got home.

The Woman Who Fell from the Sky by Jennifer Steil – In 2006, Steil accepted a job to teach a journalism class to the staff of The Yemen Observer. While there she learns about media in the Middle East and live in Yemen, a country that’s dangerous and difficult to understand.

Sally Ride: America’s First Woman in Space by Lynn Sherr – Sally Ride was the first American woman in space, breaking through the boys’ club of astronauts to participate in the seventh shuttle mission. I’ve heard nothing but good things about this biography. (Fun fact: The first woman to travel in space was Russian cosmonaut Valentina Tereshkova in June of 1963).

So there you have it, 11 books to start with if you want to read more about adventures from awesome ladies. I’d love to hear more suggestions in the comments!

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Even though I’ve been on the lookout for books set in London and England in preparation for a trip with my sister this fall, I didn’t expect that nearly all of my fiction reading in the last month would be set in England. All four of these books are pretty different — fantasy/science fiction, contemporary romance, historical fiction and YA fantasy — but I enjoyed them nonetheless.

the rook by daniel o'malleyThe Rook by Daniel O’Malley

The best way I can think to describe this book is Ghostbusters meets James Bond meets Memento, if James Bond were a lady spy who is also a kickass administrative genius. It was so awesome, I hardly have words. I can’t remember who recommended The Rook initially, but I decided to pick it up because of this Book Riot post.

At the center of the book is Myfanwy Thomas, an operative with a secret organization that helps battle the supernatural. Myfanwy wakes up with her memory erased, but tries to continue on with her work following a series of letters and instructions written by her former self. The book has intrigue, girl power, imagination and a ton of goofy (and kinda gross) fun. This one is great. (Thanks, Jeanne, for the addition of Memento to the description – you are 100 percent correct).

the royal we by heather cocks and jessica morganThe Royal We by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan

I’ve seen a couple of reviews call The Royal We fiction about Prince William and Kate Middleton, which is both true and also a little unfair to the book, which was a lot more delightful than I initially expected it would be. Wow, that’s kind of a backhanded compliment, isn’t it?

Anyway… The Royal We is the story of America Rebecca “Bex” Porter, who meets and falls in love with Prince Nicholas, future king of England, while they’re students at Oxford. The book follows their relationship over a decade as they struggle with how to be “Nick and Bex” while also living up to the expectations of “Nicholas and Rebecca.” I loved that the book wasn’t focused on will-they-or-won’t-they and instead tried to explore more complicated questions about public and private lives and what it takes to build a sustainable relationship. But it was also funny and sweet and very clearly informed by an intense interest in the British Royal Family. This book was an absolute perfect beach read – highly recommended.

the fair fight by anna freemanThe Fair Fight by Anna Freeman

The promo copy for this book describes it as The Crimson Petal and the White meets Fight Club, and although I haven’t read either of those books I know enough about them to be intrigued. The Fair Fight is the story of two Victorian women of vastly different circumstances, who come together via bare-knuckle boxing. As fun as that concept is, this one felt a little bit long to me (it’s nearly 500 pages). It seemed like it took forever to bring Ruby and Charlotte together, although once they were finally interacting the story picked up again. That, plus the fact that the comeuppance for the villains was SO SATISFYING, left me with generally good feelings about this one.

unspoken by sarah rees brennanUnspoken by Sarah Rees Brennan

Earlier this month Jenny (Reading the End) had an interesting post about similarities between YA fiction and three-volume novels of the Victorian era, where she specifically mentioned the Lynburn Legacy series by Sarah Reese Brennan – Unspoken is the first of the trilogy. I snatched it up from the library because the heroine, Kami, is an intrepid girl reporter and I love books about intrepid girl reporters. And this did not disappoint! The story plays around with tropes of Gothic mysteries and has this rather funny, sly sense of humor that I enjoyed. Unfortunately, my library doesn’t have the rest of the series (insane!), so I’m not sure when I’ll get to finish this one out.

In case you were curious, the two other books I read as part of my British fiction binge in May and June were Northanger Abbey by Val McDermid and A God in Ruins by Kate Atkinson. I thought about writing a bit about those, but found it didn’t really have much to say. So we’ll leave it at this, and then see if my trend towards fiction set across the pond continues into July.

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currently june 22 2015.jpg

Time and Place | Just before 9 a.m. in my favorite chair.

Eating and Drinking | Green tea, coconut yogurt with almonds and dark chocolate, raspberries and blueberries. Yum.

Reading | Since I last updated, I’ve finished several books: The Royal We by Heather Cox and Jessica Morgan (basically William and Kate fan fiction — absolutely perfect lakeside reading), The Rook by Daniel O’Malley (Ghostbusters meets James Bond, if James Bond were a lady spy who is also a kickass administrative genius) and Unspoken by Sarah Rees Bennan (sassy Gothic about a spunky high school journalist and sorcerers). Clearly I’m on a kick for fantasy (or fantasy-ish) British fiction.

Watching | A friend and I went to see Jurassic World last night. It was entertaining and fun — exactly what you want in a summer blockbuster about genetically modified dinosaurs.

Listening | Yay, audio books! I finished up The Checklist Manifesto by Atul Gawande before we left for the cabin, and our car listened to Modern Romance by Aziz Ansari on the drive. Rebecca Schinsky at Book Riot summed up my thoughts on Modern Romance perfectly: “Ansari’s personal reflections are candid and funny, but the sociology sections (co-written with actual sociologist Eric Klinenberg) are kind of just interesting enough … Despite the unevenness in narration and overall engagingness (that’s totally a word now, go with it), I found a lot to enjoy here.”

Cooking | The boyfriend made this spicy shrimp pasta in garlic tomato cream sauce last night — so delicious.

Blogging | In the last couple of weeks, I shared some great comics you can read start to finish, my cabin weekend essentials, and some reader recommendations for Book Riot’s Read Harder challenge.

Sharing | There are a lot of thoughtful, emotional pieces in the wake of the shooting at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston last week. This post links to a lot of great ones. I’ll just point out two as especially important — Charlie Pierce at Esquire on why this is terrorism and Ta-Nehisi Coates in The Atlantic on why we need to take the Confederate flag down. This was terrorism. It was a racially-motivated hate crime committed by a white supremacist. Calling it anything else is cowardly.

Loving | Sparkling margaritas from a plastic mug while sitting on a boat in the middle of a lake is what dreams are made of.

Decluttering | I took the plunge Friday night and did a big book purge. Every book came off my shelves. About 160 fewer went back on. Nothing is double stacked and every shelf has a bit of wiggle room. It’s so great.

Anticipating | I’ve got a lot of writing to do today, and I have to do the dishes at some point, but I’m hoping that it’ll be a pretty relaxing days before jumping into what looks like a busy week. Happy Sunday, everyone! What are you reading today?

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